checking in

One piece of housekeeping before I get into this post: I was notified a few weeks ago that my web host will be shutting down by the end of May. I’ll need to migrate the entire Paper Tiger website to a new platform, which will take me some time. I’ll be moving to WordPress over the course of the next two months. If you’re an email subscriber of this blog (or if you use a blog reader), unfortunately I’ll have no way to transfer that email list, but I will give you some warning before I make the final transfer. The website will still be paper-tiger.net, but links to other pages will be changing. So I anticipate some hiccups, as I’ll need to update links to blog posts or tutorial pages in a whole long list of places: pattern PDFs, YouTube video descriptions, and so on. So I hope you’ll bear with me through that process and forgive any bumps in the road. Now, on to the post…

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Hello, all. I hope you’re as well as can be. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned life upside down for us all, and it’s a strange time to… well, to do much of anything. The Norwegian prime minister held a press conference on Thursday, March 12, announcing a number of initial measures they were taking to try to slow the spread, including closing schools and universities and instituting the social distancing policy we’re all now familiar with. March 12 was the first day I decided to work from home, and the press conference came as a relief, to know the government was taking the threat seriously and once they decided to take action, it was swift. My physical university campus is effectively shut down now, and employees have been instructed to work from home if they can. Looking at the calendar, today’s day 11 of isolation/social distancing/shelter-in-place/whatever your terminology. I’ve been out for walks at least every other day, and to the grocery store once, but otherwise, my partner and I are just home. There have been ups and downs, as you might expect, but overall we feel very lucky – lucky to be where we are (in this house, in this country), to not be worried about our jobs or work for the moment, to be able to go outside. We’re incredibly fortunate. We’re also worried about friends who have already lost their jobs, whose livelihoods are threatened. We’ve only seen the beginning of what this whole thing will bring.

It’s hard to know what to do to help, but I’ve been doing my best to support small businesses, both local and further afield. Even though I’ve been eager to knit from my stash this year (and I still am), I’ve been buying yarn I had no plans on buying a month ago. Buying patterns. Buying music on Bandcamp. Buying books. And feeling grateful to be able to lend that kind of support in some small way.

I find it hard to work on my academic work at the moment, and those I work with have been very understanding. I am getting some work done, but I’m trying to be gentle with myself too. And when it  all becomes too much, I knit. Or bake. Keeping my hands busy helps with the anxiety.

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I hope you’re taking care of yourself and your loved ones as well as you can. I hope you’re taking social distancing seriously, but I also hope you’re able to get outside and take in some fresh air when you can. It’s difficult to try and find a balance right now, but do your best – connect with others using the means we have available, but take a step away and take some time for yourself when you need to. This is a really emotionally complex time. People lives are at stake. If you’re part of the high risk group, take extra care. We’re all in this together. xx

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reflections on making

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Halfway through the second month of 2020, I’m beginning to get a sense of how limited my time for making is at the moment (and is likely to remain for at least several more months). Hashtag PhD life, or something like that? I’m getting a little bit of knitting done here and there, but it all feels like it’s moving at a glacial pace. I have two sock projects on the go, which I sometimes bring on my commute to work on, but I’m still on the first sock of both pairs. Most of the sweaters I have on the needles are fingering weight sweaters, which prompted me to cast on a worsted weight sweater a few weeks ago in the hopes that I could bang it out, but that also feels slow and now I just have another WIP. So you could say I’ve been thinking lately about my priorities when it comes to my making this year, and I thought I’d share what I’m feeling with you all.

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Firstly, after being apart from the majority of my WIPs and my stash for six months, I’m feeling slightly overwhelmed by it all now that I have it back. Not entirely in a bad way – I missed it and I feel an excitement to work on projects with all these beautiful materials I’ve collected – but what makes it overwhelming is the relatively slow pace at which I’m working on projects at the moment. I managed to work through a lot of what I had with me in the fall, which felt very freeing, and I’m just not feeling that freedom anymore. This means I’m feeling two strong desires: one is to work through my existing WIPs (16 is the current count, going by my Ravelry project page), and the other is a desire to work from stash for new projects. I really, genuinely want to be doing both of those things. And that feels really good, although it’s clearly going to take a little while to work on the WIPs. A few of them aren’t so far from being finished (like my Galore as well as this summery sweater) and trying to get them wrapped up in the next couple of months will probably help a lot.

The other thing I’m feeling really strongly is a desire to make things for friends and family. This isn’t entirely incompatible with wanting to knit from my stash, luckily, but it is somewhat at odds with trying to get through my WIPs. Nonetheless, after being reuinited with *all my knits* I’m also feeling how much I don’t need anything new, despite all the yarn kicking around in my stash. Of course there are sweaters and other things I want to make for myself that I already have yarn for, but I have plenty of yarn to do more knitting for others, as well.

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I know a lot of this is really in line with how many other crafters are feeling right now – The Crimson Stitchery is one of my favorite podcasts, and Anushka has talked a lot in recent videos about storage space, stash, WIPs, and desire vs. necessity. I really appreciate her approach to crafting as it’s always creative and beautiful, but also thrifty and practical. (The tagline for her podcast is “making all things beautiful and useful.”) She’s hosting an initiative called Stashless2020 in which you can join in with the aim to do one of two things: either try to work through your existing stash to become completely stashless, or put less into your stash and work more from what you already have. I definitely fall into the latter category – even if I had all the time in the world to knit this year, I wouldn’t empty my stash – but I appreciate the encouragement provided by a group effort, and knowing there are others feeling the same. If you’re intrigued by the idea of Stashless2020, I’d encourage you to check out this video where Anuskha discusses the question, “Can I go stashless in 2020?”

I am so lucky to have so many beautiful things to make with, so when I feel frustrated by how slowly my projects seem to be going at the moment, I just try to remind myself: it’s not a race.

the vintage shetland project

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I can’t remember when I first encountered the work of Susan Crawford. I defnitely remember running into The Perfect Christmas Jumper while browsing Ravelry in the early days of my membership, and the Trimmed with Roses jumper has been floating around in my memory for a very long time too, but it’s hard to pinpoint an exact moment. Nonetheless, Susan’s name is one of those that sits in my brain along with several other influential designers like Kate Davies, Ysolda Teague, and Norah Gaughan as some of the first designers I became aware of and interested in following as I became more and more interested in knitting all the time in my late teens.

This is part of why, when I decided to go to Edinburgh Yarn Festival two years ago, the only thing I booked a ticket to beyond the marketplace wasn’t a class, but a talk – one Susan was giving on an ongoing project called The Vintage Shetland Project. (It turned out to be a very good thing indeed that I didn’t book any classes, since I broke my shoulder a week before the festival!) The project involved a book-in-progress, but it was so much more than just a book project. Now that the (absolutely incredible) book has finally come to fruition, I couldn’t not share it with you.

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When I attended her talk in Edinburgh, I got to hear firsthand about the 27 unique pieces in the Shetland Museum archive that Susan had selected to recreate – and then for each one, after the original piece had been painstakingly reconstructed and a new sample made, the design was graded and patterns written. This book is the culmination of eight years of intense work and it’s difficult for me to even wrap my head around how much has gone into it. I don’t want to go into too much detail here because Susan has talked about the scope of the project elsewhere – I highly recommend checking out this interview with her on Fruity Knitting (part 1 of the interview starts around 12:47; part 2 starts at 54:35), as well as this gorgeous behind-the-scenes video made by Susan’s daughter, Charlie Moon (who is also one of the models in the book). I can only say that when my book finally arrived the other week, I actually started crying with joy.

I did want to share a few glimpses of the pages inside, since the diversity of the 27 pieces is rather remarkable. There are garments and accessories: cardigans, pullovers, sleeveless tops/vests, hats, gloves, mittens, and stockings. I thought I would start with this lovely cardigan below.

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This piece is called Vaila, and it’s named for the island in the Shetland Islands where the photoshoots for the book took place. I love the striking color combination, and I love how it’s been styled on lovely Ella Gordon.

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Unsurprisingly, there’s lots of Fair Isle to be found within the pages of The Vintage Shetland Project, all beautifully photographed by Susan. The tam pictured here is called Twageos. The gallery section of the book also features photos of the surroundings on Vaila, including that rather magnificent Shetland pony on the right.

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There are also some lovely lace pieces, and I’m pretty enamored with this cardigan, which is called Marianne.

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The piece that has completely stolen my heart, however, is this Fair Isle turtleneck called Yule. I love that they’ve shown it on both a man and a woman, and I absolutely love both the colors and the fit of this piece. I have most of the right colors in my stash in Brooklyn Tweed Loft, which isn’t the best match for the pattern (which calls for either Jamieson & Smith Shetland Heritage or Susan’s own Fenella 2-ply), but I know I can get gauge. The gauge is quite small (32 stitches per 4″), which in Loft I can achive on a 2.25mm needle, so I may want to wait a few months before I embark on such a small-gauge allover colorwork project. Nonetheless, I have a feeling I’ll be casting this one on sooner than later once I pick up the three additional skeins I need. I just love it so much.

The patterns are slowly being added to the Ravelry database (as someone who knows what goes into adding a good pattern page to Ravelry, that is no small feat for 27 patterns) but for now you can see all 27 samples in the lookbook here, if you’re interested in seeing more.

The first section of the book is made up of nearly 100 pages of historical background – both about the specific pieces recreated in the book and Shetland knitting in the time period that is Susan’s focus here (the 1920s through the 1950s) as well as knitting farther afield. I’ve spent several mornings in the past few weeks reading a chapter or two with my morning coffee, and it makes for excellent reading for anyone interested in knitwear history or the history of the knitting industry. Susan has done an incredible amount of research and she’s really presented it in a top-quality full color hardback that is a pleasure to read or simply to flip through for inspiration.

The book is available from Susan herself over on her website, and there are a few shops out there stocking it as well.

Even though I linked it above, I’ll end this post with the video made by Susan’s daughter, Charlie Moon. I first saw this film at Susan’s talk two years ago and it’s absolutely gorgeous. If you have a few minutes, I hope you’ll take the time to watch it too, and be transported to Vaila.

The Vintage Shetland Project from charliemoon on Vimeo.